MONROE — Like a lot of athletes, Preston Dickinson has dreams. And the very first dream in his young motocross career was to qualify for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
That dream came true at a regional qualifier in Washougal in late May when the 14-year-old Dickinson, who lives in Monroe, earned one of four available berths at this year’s national championship event, which began Monday and continues through the week.
How exciting is it?
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a very long time,” said Dickinson, who starts his freshman year at Monroe High School in September. “It’s a big deal.”
In a career he hopes eventually will lead to professional opportunities, Dickinson sees this race as an important stepping stone.
With close to 1,500 riders competing in various classes, the field will include “the best of the best amateurs,” he said. “There will be riders from everywhere coming to one race and racing each other. Every factory team is there. All the sponsors. Everyone is out there watching you. They’ll be watching who they want on their team, and who are the up-and-coming riders moving up through the ranks.”
He will compete in the 250 C limited class (the 250 refers to a 250cc motor; the C is an experience designation meaning junior) against 41 other riders. There will be three separate races and the standings will be determined by averaging the finishes. Dickinson also is an alternate in the 450 C class and was to find out on arrival if he will compete in that field as well.
For inspiration, Dickinson made a sign that reads “#LL16,” (translated: hashtag, Loretta Lynn 2016) that is on the wall next to his stationary bicycle. He can see it as he works out, and it helps him imagine what will certainly be an amazing feeling should something special happen in Tennessee. Including, perhaps, a victory.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” he said with a grin. “Even on the podium, I wouldn’t know what to say.”
Dickinson started riding tiny motorbikes around the yard when he was 4, and then started racing when he was 7. He started in the 50 class, advanced to 60, then to 85, and finally to 250. His primary competitive bike today is a Yamaha YD250S.
His years in racing have been exciting and, at times, hazardous. When he was 10 he broke the femur bone in his upper right leg when he landed badly after flying over the handlebars at an arenacross event in Monroe. He needed surgery to install rods in his injured leg, then was in a wheelchair for a month, and then on crutches for close to five months. At nine months he underwent another surgery to remove the rods.
He immediately returned to racing, but the next year broke both the tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg, which required a cast for six weeks and a total of 12 weeks away from racing. Then last year he went over the handlebars again at a race in Eastern Washington and landed in such a way that he was knocked unconscious for a few minutes.
But such injuries, unpleasant though they are, have never dissuaded Dickinson from riding.
“I just love (the sport) too much,” he explained. “When things go wrong, they go wrong. But you don’t think about what could go wrong all the time. You know it could happen, but I don’t know how I’d do (on the bike) if I was always worried about that kind of stuff.”
“You can get hurt just as easily with football,” added Cristina Dickinson, his mother. Though seeing her son unconscious “was scary for me … I never at any point felt that we needed to stop.”
Indeed, racing has become a family activity. Cristina Dickinson helps out at races, husband Chris also races for fun, and younger son Parker is getting started in the sport. The family travels to events around the Northwest almost every weekend from February to September, often camping and spending time with other racing families.
“The community for this is amazing,” Cristina Dickinson said.
In the coming years, Preston Dickinson hopes to continue to progress as a rider. He trains two or three days a week, often traveling to Arlington where a friend has a track near the house. He also has a personal trainer to help him improve.
The next dream, he said, “is to be a top pro and make good money doing it,” Dickinson said. “That’s the goal. To be at least in the top 10 in the pro class at nationals.”